by Stacey Krim
The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Signe Waller Foxworth’s archive devoted to the Greensboro Massacre. This collection represents a significant event in the history of Greensboro, North Carolina relating to race and labor relations. The UNCG Special Collections & University Archives is excited to preserve this collection and make it available to the public for research and as a memory to those individuals impacted by the event. The incorporation of materials from this collection into the teaching curriculum will significantly enhance student learning outcomes and enrich their understanding of regional civil rights history.
Dr. Foxworth was delighted to learn of the excellent policies, practices and programs of UNCG University Libraries that addressed her main concerns about preservation and access. She felt strongly that her collection should reside in Greensboro at UNC Greensboro. The event occurred locally and the roots of the lessons to be learned are traceable here; she knew she had found the ideal home for her collection. The Greensboro Massacre Collection contains material that spans roughly 48 years, from 1973 to 2021. This comprehensive collection documents events, actions, and persons involved in the lead-up to the Greensboro Massacre of Nov. 3, 1979, the day itself in which the assault on a permitted parade occurred, and the short-term and long-term consequential aftermath for Greensboro, North Carolina, and beyond, especially as it bears on racism, white supremacy and labor history. The records contained in the collection are in a variety of media forms.
The Greensboro Massacre occurred on November 3, 1979, in Greensboro, NC, setting the climate for worker rights and race relations in Greensboro of that era. Five protestors at a “Death to the Klan” march organized by the demonstrators were killed, and ten people were wounded by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party attackers. The people killed included:
- Sandra Smith, former student body president of Bennett College and a textile worker at Cone Mills Revolution Plant in Greensboro where she was elected Chairperson to lead a union drive.
- César Cause, a Duke University magna cum laude graduate, and son of Cuban immigrants, who wrote for the Workers Viewpoint newspaper, helped lead unionization efforts at Duke Hospital, and organized support for striking workers in NC.
- Bill Sampson, a summa cum laude college graduate with a Masters from Harvard Divinity School, who became a shop steward at Greensboro’s Cone Mills White Oak textile plant. His fellow workers, black and white, chose him to run for union local president.
- Dr. Michael Nathan who was an anti-war and civil rights activist while a student at Duke University. On receiving his medical degree, he became Chief Pediatrician at Durham’s Lincoln Community Health Center that served poor African American children.
- Dr. Jim Waller, a pediatrician on a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University, who became a textile worker and union leader at Cone Mills Granite Finishing Plant, Haw River, NC. Breaking down barriers of racism, he led a workers’ strike that added greatly to the ranks of dues-paying union members.
In the aftermath, police arrested sixteen of the forty Klansmen and Nazis involved, as well as several CWP members, and the event was investigated by the FBI. Six criminal cases were brought against the members of the Klan and Nazi members, and all were acquitted in November of 1980. A federal case was opened after the acquittal, indicting nine individuals on civil rights charges in 1983. All nine individuals were acquitted of the federal charges in 1984. Survivors of the Massacre filed a civil lawsuit, and at a Federal jury in Winston-Salem, NC, the unprecedented verdict found two Greensboro police officers, a Klan police informant, three other Klansmen, and two Nazis jointly liable for a wrongful death of Dr. Michael Nathan, and injuries to Paul Bermanzohn and Tom Clark in 1985. It awarded two survivors with a monetary judgment against the city of Greensboro, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Nazi Party for violating the civil rights of the demonstrators. On October 6, 2020, forty-one years after the massacre, the City Council of Greensboro, NC approved a resolution apologizing for the event.